Archive for August, 2013

“curious white Constantia Cape Wine”: The Advertisement of Constantia Wine Through 1795

August 30, 2013 1 comment

I originally set out to look into American and English advertisements for the sale of Constantia wine through 1795, which is just after the first British occupation of the Dutch Cape Colony. I searched for advertisements in the Early American Newspapers Series 2, 1758-1900, the 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers, and the Virginia Gazette 1736-1780. In the Early American Newspaper collection the sale of Cape wine was first advertised on April 26, 1750 when Commander James Child, of the ship Catherine, listed the wine amongst sundry goods.[1] After Commander Child placed a second advertisement on May 3, 1750, there were no further listings for the sale of Cape wine or Constantia wine through the end of 1796.[2] There are no references to Cape wine and Constantia wine in the Index of the Virginia Gazette.[3] I found no references either in research for my earlier posts The Varieties of Wine Available in Colonial Williamsburg and Wine Names from Colonial Williamsburg. This does not imply that Constantia wine was not sold nor consumed in America during this period, rather it suggests its rarity. I did find advertisements for Constantia wine in English newspapers. They appear even less frequently than the advertisements for Cape wine that are peppered throughout. Thus the rest of this post focuses on these English advertisements.

Note, subsequent to publishing this post I searched the newspaper archives of Genealogy Bank which reach back to 1690.   I came across an advertisement for Constantia wine from January 10, 1792 in the Boston newspaper Argus.  At John Erving’s grocery store he advertised “A few casks of genuine CONSTANTIA WINE, warranted pure as imported”.[20]  A “few pipes of CAPE WINE” was advertised in New York on January 31, 1788.[21]  Beginning on September 17, 1788, Frederick Jay of No. 244 Queen Street, New York repeatedly advertised 2 “pipes of old Cape Wine” for auction and sale.[22] Two pipes of Cape Wine remained advertised until August 28, 1789.[23]  On December 3, 1789, John Patton of Philadelphia advertised for auction “A few hogsheads of excellent Cape wine, for immediate use.”[24]

Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope. Richard Cooper II After William Hodge. 1740-1814. #1867,1214.761. The British Museum

Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope. Richard Cooper II After William Hodge. 1740-1814. #1867,1214.761. The British Museum

Constantia wine was first advertised for sale on June 11, 1743.[4] This “Small Parcel of genuine red and white Constantia Cape Wine” is described as, “very bright, and of fine Flavour”. It was sold for £1 1s. per gallon including the bottles. This parcel along with red Cape Wine had been recently brought back by the proprietor with enquires handled by Mr. Abbiss in Dolphin Court. On June 22, 1743, another advertisement was placed for these same wines.[5] This time the price was reduced by 1s. to 20s. per gallon or 30s per dozen pint bottles. It is of interest that both the red and white Constantia were sold at the same price. Not all sales or auctions advertised included both Constantia and regular Cape wine. That same month the “Stock in Trade” of the bankrupt Messrs. Pearce and Stedman were advertised for auction. This included “ten Lots of fine Red Cape Wine.”[6] On September 10, 1743 the stock of the bankrupt vintner Mr. Jos. Thorpe was advertised.[7] There was no Constantia listed, despite the diversity of the stock which included old Claret, Champagne, Tent, Cyprus wine, old Rhenish wine, and “Turky Muscadine”. There were “twenty-two Dozen and six Pint Bottles of fine red Cape Wine” and hogshead of white Cape Wine.

Constantia wine next appears on June 1, 1744 when John Welch listed “For Sale by the CANDLE” a wide variety of wines including 36 bottles of red Constantia, “Two Casks of extraordinary good red Cape Wine”, and “white Muscadel Cape Wines, of a most delicate Taste and Flavour.”[8] Despite four subsequent advertisements all of the stock remained available on June 7, 1744. [9]

View of the Cape of Good Hope. Elisha Kirkall after George Lambert. 1734. #2010,7081.2468. The British Museum.

View of the Cape of Good Hope. Elisha Kirkall after George Lambert. 1734. #2010,7081.2468. The British Museum.

A decade passes until Constantia wine next appears in another advertisement. This time by “John Welch, Broker” on April 4, 1754.[10] This advertisement lists “Twenty-five Dozen Pint Bottles of curious white Constantia Cape Wine” and 50 dozen “excellent Red Cape Wine, of the best Growths, and of fine Flavour” amongst others. Samples of the wines were available for purchase or taste. To give a sense of that period “Two Egyptian Mummies, in good Preservation, with a great Number of Hieroglyphicks” were advertised as viewable until sold. The advertisement claimed the male mummy was “SEPTIMIV a Tribune” who served under King Ptolomy in the wars with Julius Caesar, sent by King Ptolomy to assassinate Pompey. The female mummy was “Princess ARSINOE” youngest daughter of King Ptolomy, sister of Cleopatra, killed at Marc Antony’s order by the “Instigation of Cleopatra.” In 1926 the bones of a young woman were excavated in a burial chamber located in the Octagon at Epheus. It is being debated that these are of Princess Arsinoe IV. Still, imagine the day one could have had tasting rare Constantia wine then viewing even rarer mummies. Unfortunately, the full inventory of wine was still advertised for sale on April 8, 1754.[11]

Three years later on January 19, 1757, a “SUNDRY excellent Wines” were advertised for sale.[12] Constantia Cape Wine was sold at 18s per gallon. This is equivalent to £1 7s. per dozen As a reference old Cyprus was listed at 14s per gallon, Burgundy £2 14s per dozen, “Latour Lafite and Pontact Claret” at £2 11s per dozen, and “Champaign” at £3 10s per dozen. This places Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite at almost twice the price as the Constantia wine. For reference Mr. Abbiss, in 1743, sold Constantia at the more expensive price of 20s per gallon or 30s per dozen.

A decade passes again until Constantia wine was advertised on May 16, 1767.[13] Six dozen bottles were available for purchase, minimum one dozen, at 10s 6d. per bottle. The advertisement noted, “It is warranted genuine and free from any Mixtures, being still in the Possession of the Person who brought it out of the Cellar at the Constantia Vineyard, where only it is to be had.” At £6 6s. per dozen this represents an almost five-fold increase in price over one decade. Perhaps it commanded such a price because it was genuine Constantia wine.

There were only two advertisements in the 1770s. On March 29, 1774 Samuel Paterson advertised the auction of “Sundry Lots” including “rich Cape Constantia Wine, in Bottles.”[14] The wines could be tasted and catalogues were available. On November 15, 1779, Mr. Skinner advertised the auction of seven casks of “Excellent CONSTANTIA WINE”.[15] These were the property of the bankrupt Captain Charles Mears, the late Commander of the Egmont East Indiaman. Shortly before bankruptcy on August 30, 1779 he wrote a letter from Blackheath to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty stating that the “Essence of Spruce” had been used to make spruce beer and his men had remained healthy on their voyage.[16] I imagine he drank diversely having been a long-time commander.

An Indiaman in a Gale off a Rocky Coast. Willem van de Velde, the Younger. Private Collection. Web Gallery of Art.

An Indiaman in a Gale off a Rocky Coast. Willem van de Velde, the Younger. Private Collection. Web Gallery of Art.

Messrs. Greenwoods advertised for sale on March 7, 1795, a small quantity of Constantia Wine in bottles which were imported in 1789 and 1790.[17] These were the properly of a gentleman who had returned to the East Indies. That same summer on June 15, 1795, Mr. Christie advertised the sale of 38 dozen pint bottles of “Genuine High flavoured CONSTANTIA WINE” the property of an East India Captain.[18] These are the last advertisements for Constantia wine prior to the Battle of Muizenberg. The following year sees the resumption on April 15, 1796, when 120 casks of Red and White Constantia were advertised for auction.[19] These were the property of Captain Overbreck of the ship Meermids from the Cape of Good Hope.

The production of Constantia wine was very small and was purchased almost exclusively by the Dutch East India Company. A very small amount was purchased by private individual. This is reflected in only nine different parcels being advertised for sale in English newspapers between 1743 and 1795.

[1] Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 04-26-1750; Issue: 1115; Page: [3]. Early American Newspapers Series 2, 1758-1900.
[2] Pennsylvania Gazette, published as The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 05-03-1750; Issue: 1116; Page: [4]. Early American Newspapers Series 2, 1758-1900.
[4] Daily Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, June 11, 1743; Issue 3868. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[5] London Daily Post and General Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, June 22, 1743; Issue 2705.
[6] London Daily Post and General Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, June 15, 1743; Issue 2699.
[7] Daily Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, September 10, 1743; Issue 3946.
[8] Daily Advertiser (London, England), Friday, June 1, 1744; Issue 4173.
[9] Daily Advertiser (London, England), Thursday, June 7, 1744; Issue 4178.
[10] Public Advertiser (London, England), Thursday, April 4, 1754; Issue 6064.
[11] Public Advertiser (London, England), Monday, April 8, 1754; Issue 6067.
[12] Public Advertiser (London, England), Wednesday, January 19, 1757; Issue 6943.
[13] Public Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, May 16, 1767; Issue 11502.
[14] Daily Advertiser (London, England), Tuesday, March 29, 1774; Issue 13500.
[15] Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Monday, November 15, 1779; Issue 15 836.
[16] To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. 1781. URL:
[17] Morning Post and Fashionable World (London, England), Saturday, March 7, 1795; Issue 7207.
[18] Morning Post and Fashionable World (London, England), Monday, June 15, 1795; Issue 7292.
[19] Daily Advertiser (London, England), Friday, April 15, 1796; Issue 21020.
[20] Date: Tuesday, January 10, 1792   Paper: Argus (Boston, MA)   Page: 4.
[21] Date: Thursday, January 31, 1788   Paper: Daily Advertiser (New York, NY)   Volume: IV   Issue: 917   Page: 1
[22] Date: Wednesday, September 17, 1788   Paper: Daily Advertiser (New York, NY)   Volume: IV   Issue: 1115   Page: 3
[23]Date: Friday, August 28, 1789   Paper: New-York Daily Gazette (New York, NY)   Issue: 209   Page: 835
[24]Date: Thursday, December 3, 1789   Paper: Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia, PA)   Issue: 3383   Page: 3

Five Young Wines from Cotes du Rhone, Roussillon, and Herault

I found myself in Friendship Heights last month and being in need of some drinking wine I stopped by Paul’s.  I walked out with five different bottles, the first four of which I recommend.  These wines are on the young side so they should show best next year.  The 2010 Domaine Les Genstas, Signargues had a beautiful nose but needs the palate to relax from some bottle age.  Domaine Tramontane is the project of Philippe Gard and Andy Cook.  These names might sound familiar because Philippe Gard owns Coume del Mas.  You may read some of my thoughts on the 2003 and 2004 vintages in my post Coume del Mas, Collioure.  I thought their 2011 Domaine Tramontane, Cotes du Roussillon has promising future at an attractive price. The 2009 Domaine Gardies, Les Millères was young and serious, also the driest of the lot. The 2010 Pic & Chapoutier, Cotes du Rhone was a young, pure, and clean Cotes du Rhone.  These wines were purchased at Paul’s Wine and Spirits.


2010 Les Vignerons D’Estezargues, Domaine Les Genestas, Cotes du Rhone Villages Signargues – $17
A Jenny & Francois Selections imported by USA Wine Imports.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Carignan sourced from 20-80 year old vines.  The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 10 months in enamel lined tanks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose developed nicely with fresh berries, baking spice…really quite nice.  In the mouth were fresh fruit flavors tart with minerals before a firm/serious middle.  The acidity was seamlessly integrated before coming to a graphite finish.  The wine seems to firm up with air.  There was a little citrus not in the finish and aftertaste.  This remained a beautiful wine that needs a little time in the bottle.  **(*) 2014-2019.


2011 Domaine Tramontane, Cotes du Roussillon – $15
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% old-vine Grenache.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose begun a little reduced then revealed subtle aromas of pungent black fruit.  In the mouth there was controlled, dense, young black fruit then pungent red and black fruit with some ripeness.  Young fruit now but a fine future ahead.   It had a cool nature, a little ripeness, and expansion in the mouth.  **(*) 2014-2020.


2009 Domaine Gardies, Les Millères, Cotes du Roussillon Villages – $19
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 20% Carignan, and 5% Mourvedre.  It was aged for 12 months in 50% cuve béton and 50% demi-muids. Alcohol 13.5%.  The light nose bore blue fruit and a little wood note.  In the mouth this was a good, young wine that was serious but tastes of some young vines.  The blue fruit was a little ripe, with some weight, then acidity and drier flavors in the back of the mouth.  There was some extract and noticeable acidity in the finish.  **(*) Now-2020.


2010 Pic & Chapoutier, Cotes du Rhone – $16
Imported by Nice Legs.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose bore some young, assertive aromas.  There were young flavors in the mouth and firm tannins with black minerals.  The wine played it close in the middle but had a good aftertaste.  There were pure and clean flavors followed by very fine, ripe, black fruited texture in the aftertaste.  Good future.  *** 2014-2019.


2009 Le Chemin Des Reves, Saltimbanque, Carignan, VdP De L’Herault – $13
Imported by USA Wine Imports.  This wine is 100% old-vine Carignan.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was of raspberry and pungent red fruit aromas along with some black fruit.  There was a certain firmness to the black fruit then a powdery ripeness as the wine became all-around approachable.  There were smooth tannins integrated with the acidity, and a hint of earth.  There was some softness but not too much, for drinking now.  ** Now-2015.


Drinking New Wines With Lou

August 28, 2013 2 comments

Between the end of summer vacation and the start of the school year, Lou and I managed to squeeze in a quick gathering to taste some wine.  We both opened several recent purchases from Weygandt Wines, Premier Cru, and Chambers Street Wines.  I was thoroughly pleased with what we tasted.  The NV Salinia Wine Company, Twenty Five Reasons bore the expected skin contact notes but otherwise was completely surprising in profile.  I preferred it after half an hour of air from the top of the bottle, before it took on a strong citrus profile.  If you want a different wine that is drinkable, complex, and affordable then pick up a bottle.  The 2011 Domaine Gauby, Les Calcinaires Blanc slowly opened up with air to become an engaging wine.  I thought it drank best the first night yet it also seems young, so try a bottle next year.  Lou had opened up the 2009 Pascal Lahcuax, Pinot Fin the night before so my first glass was fully open.  Pascal Lachaux is the son-in-law of Robert Arnoux.  The quality of his fruit and wine making was clearly evident in this bottle.  Very enjoyable and one I recommend you try.  The 2010 Farmers Jane Wine Co., Field Red took some air before the balance of complexity and freshness made it one of my favorite wines of the evening.  This wine is the joint venture of Angela Osbone of A Tribute to Grace Wine Company and Faith Armstrong of Onward Wines.  I recommend you try a bottle or two.  The 2011 Birichino Amici, Grenache Vieilles Vignes remained drier, tighter, and firmer over two nights.  It might just need some time so try it again at the new year.


NV Salinia Wine Company, Twenty Five Reasons, Petillant White Wine, Mendocino –  $22
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from 42-43 year old parcel of organic vines in Redwood Valley.  They were was skin fermented with indigenous yeasts.  It is a blend of 10% 2012 vintage, 85% 2011 vintage, and 5% from reserve barrels of 2010 and 2009 vintages.  Alcohol 12%.  The wine is cloudy.  The nose begins with complex, ripe, floral, skin contact aromas.  On the second day it bore stronger grapefruit aromas.  In the mouth the wine is bubbly at first then quickly becomes petillant as it warms up and breaths.  It almost becomes a still wine.  It was quite good after half an hour with lemon and citrus flavors then with warmth complex orange peel and wet baking spices.  It becomes tart with air and towards the bottom of the bottle.  *** Now.


2011 Domaine Gauby, Les Calcinaires Blanc, VdP des Cotes Catalanes –
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 50% Muscat, 30% Chardonnay, and 20% Macabeu sourced from 15-50 year old vines.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged on the fine lees for eight months.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose bore floral, white tropical undertones, stones, and with warmth, melon and bitters.  In the mouth there was a little yellow and white fruit mixed with acidity.  Then the wine fleshes out a little with a tropical bit coming out.  It has some weight, orange peel, and a spine of flavors.  **(*) 2014-2017.


2009 Pascal Lachaux, Pinot Fin, Bourgogne – $27
Imported by Premier Cru.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from 60+ year old vines on old Pinot Fin rootstock sourced from blocks in several villages, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanee, and Nuit-Saint-Georges.  The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was very finely textured with herbs, cardamom like spices, with a hint of fruit underneath.  The flavors were similar in the mouth but with more red fruit.  The wine was gentle but firm with focused ripeness, black cherry, and a modest structure in the finish.  A nice wine.  *** Now-2019.


2010 Farmers Jane Wine Co., Field Red, Santa Barbara County – $26
This wine is a blend of 93% Grenache from 60-80 year old vines sourced from the Watch Hill Vineyard and 7% Carignan from 60-80 year old vines from the Hawkeye Ranch which were aged in neutral oak.  Alcohol 14.3%.  The nose was fresh, almost crisp, with baking spices.  In the mouth were ripe strawberry and red fruit flavors that mixed complexity with freshness.  It was a light wine with a little weight and moderate, salivating acidity.  It took on a floral complexity until the finish where good bitters-like flavors came out followed by a woodsy note in the aftertaste.  Perhaps some minerals.  *** Now -2014.


2011 Birichino Amici, Grenache Vieilles Vignes, Besson Vineyard, Central Coast – $26
This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from 101 year old vines. Alcohol 13.5%.  In the mouth there was redder fruit with a slightly, powdery ripeness.  The acidity and dryness builds into a fine, pebbly textured finish.  The wine remained tighter in flavor and firmer in the finish.  ** 2014-2019.


An Open Invitation For Posts: Wine and the Sea

August 27, 2013 8 comments
Nooms, Reiner. Merchant Vessel at Anchor. 1658.  Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna. From Web Gallery of Art.

Nooms, Reiner. Merchant Vessel at Anchor. 1658. Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna. From Web Gallery of Art.

I have long been interested in the history of wine  and until recently, most of my reading has been of printed books.   This year I have spent an ever increasing amount of time conducting my own research to write historical posts for my blog.  In doing so I have come across a wide range of online digital collections and history blogs.  I have read fascinating posts about the history of science, history of gardens, and history of crime.  These posts tend to present an original topic with illustrations based on research using both digital and print sources.  There are universities, libraries, and organizations coordinating and disseminating links to these posts.  While there are many wine blogs producing a large array of content, there are few posts about the history of wine that are well researched and cited.  I feel there are many topics within the history of wine which have yet to be explored.  To help develop this part of wine writing Erin Scala (Thinking Drinking) and I will present research topics and invite others to join us in writing coordinated posts about the history of wine.

Here is how it will work:

1. We will release a topic. Our first topic is “Wine and the Sea.” You may interpret this however you like. All that we ask is that your post includes some form of research, and that you cite your sources in a bibliography. We also ask that you follow ethical writing practices, such as obtaining permission for all images used, and abstaining from plagiarism.

2. With each topic there are two posting deadlines. The deadline for your post on “Wine and the Sea” is November 30th, 2013. Please post your research blog to your website between 12:00am and 8:00am EST on November 30th, 2013. If you have no website, but want to participate, contact Erin or Aaron about having one of us host your article.

3. The second deadline is a post that incorporates links to the other participants’ posts. This can occur, ideally, as an appendix to your research post, or it can be a separate blog posting. The idea is that when a reader finds one of our posts, they will be able to connect to the entire symposium topic. We will send out a complete set of links the day after the blog posting deadline. This will be due December 2nd, 2013. Please post your links to the complete symposium between 12:00am and 8:00am EST.

4. To participate, fill out this simple form. One week before the symposium articles are posted, we will publish all of the participant websites together so that we may all easily browse the symposium articles on the release date.

Doris Handrus – Wine and the Sea
Graham Harding (Wine As Was) – On the scale from Riches to ruin: the cargo of champagne in R.L. Stevenson’s Ebb-Tide
Frank Morgan (Drink what YOU like) – Wine and the Sea — Consider the Oyster
Erin Scala (Thinking Drinking) – Wine and the Sea: Aphrodite Rising
Adam Zolkover (Twice Cooked) – Madeira, Wine, and The Sea

Categories: History of Wine Tags:

Early Descriptions of the Vines and Grapes of Virginia and Canada

August 26, 2013 2 comments

John Parkinson (1567-1650) was an English herbalist and botanist.  He was apothecary and Royal Botanist to Charles I.  He published two books Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris first edition in 1629 [1], with a second edition in 1656,  followed by Theatrum Botanicum in 1640 [2].  These two books are interesting not only for their differing illustrations but also for the lists of vines and grapes.   I originally intended to compare the different lists of these two books but became distracted by the inclusion of vines from Virginia and Canada. American plants were brought back to Europe from the earliest years.  These specimens were not only cultivated in gardens but botanically classified and described.  This post is not meant to be exhaustive, rather it is meant to be an exposure into the early botanic descriptions of these two vines.  It has begun to appear that John Parkinson published the first English scientific names and botanic descriptions of the wild vines of Virginia and Canada.

John Parkinson from Theatrum Botanicum. 1640.

In Paradisi in Sole under “The Ordering of the Kitchen Garden” John Parkinson describes the art of tending grapevines and under “The Orchard” section he provides a detailed description of the known grapevines of England.  He comments that there was “so greate diversities of Grapes, and so consequently of Vines that bear them, that I cannot give you names to all that here grow with us.”  His lists of plants include the grapevine from Virginia.  He relates that his friend John Tradescant, the great nurseryman, had 20 varieties growing.  The 1634 publication by John Tradescant the Elder of Plantarum In Horto lists six specific grapevines along with “divers other” but no specific mention of the grapevines of Virginia or Canada.  John Tradescant the Younger first visited Virginia in 1637 so it is possible that there were no vines cultivated in their nursery when Plantarum In Horto was published.  In 1656 John Tradescant detailed in Musaeum Tradescantium all of the rarities in his London nursery.[3]  There are eight different vines and grapes listed under Vitis and an additional eight unclassified grapes.  Amongst the classified grapesvines appears Vitis vinifera sylvestris Virginiana “Virginia wilde vine” and Vitis vulpina Virginiana “Fox-Grape from Virginia”.


The 1629 edition of Paradisi in Sole lists 23 varieties of vines and grapes ( Note, the numbers are my own):

  1. “ordinarie Grape both white and red”
  2. “white Muscadine Grape”
  3. “redde Muscadine”
  4. “Burlet”
  5. “little blacke Grape”
  6. “Raisin of the Sunne Grape”
  7. “Curran Grape (or the Grape of Corinth)”
  8. “Greeke wine Grape”
  9. “Frontignack”
  10. “square Grape”
  11. “Damasco Grape”
  12. “Russet Grape”
  13. “white Long Grape”
  14. “partie-coloured Grape”
  15. “Rhenish wine Grape”
  16. “White wine Grape”
  17. “Claret wine Grape”
  18. “Teint”
  19. “Bursarobe”
  20. “Alligant”
  21. “blew of blacke Grape of Orleans”
  22. “Grape without stones”
  23. “Virginia Vine”

In Theatrum Botanicum John Parkinson presents a list of vine varieties followed by a smaller list of grape varieties.  He includes botanical names as well as some names in Greek, Latin, and other languages.  He acknowledges the great variety presented in the previous book and notes this new list represents “the choysest of the other”.  The vine varieties listed are ( Note, the numbers are my own):

  1. Vitis Vinifera. The manured Vine.
  2. Vitis lacimiatifolius. The Parsley Vine or Grape with thin cut leaves.
  3. Labrusca sive Vitis sylvestris Eurepea. The wild Vine of Europe.
  4. Vitis Sylvestris Virginiana. The wild Vine of Virginia.
  5. Vitis Sylvestris trifolia Canadensis. The wild Vine of Canada.

Vitis Vinifera and Vitis from Theatrum Botanicum.

The “Chiefest” grape varieties are (Note, the numbers are my own):

  1. “Damasco white Grape”
  2. “Muscadine Grape both white and red”
  3. “Frontignacke or Muske Grape”
  4. “party coloured Grape”
  5. “Raisin of the Sun Grape”
  6. “Curran Grape”
  7. “small earely blacke Grape”
  8. “blacke Grape or Orleance”
  9. “Grape without stones”
  10. “one that beareth green leaves continually”
  11. “some that beare twise in a yeare”

In my post A Visual History of 16th Century Herbal Illustrations of Vitis Vinifera I included 11 different illustrations of grape roots, vines, stems, tendrils, and clusers.  In Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, John Parkinson chose to illustrative five different grape clusters centered amongst a fig tree branch.  Each grape cluster is on a bit of vine, four with a leaf and three with a tendril. This is quite unlike the illustration in Theatrum Botanicum in which Vitis Vinifera is shown as a single plant with vine, leaves, tendrils, and three clusters of fruit and Vitis Lacintatis solise is shown as vine, leaves, and tendrils.  This places the illustration of Theatrum Botanicum in similarity with the 16th century Herbal illustrations.  Eleanour Sinclair Rohde describes Paradisi in Sole Paradisus as more of a “gardening book” whereas Theatrum Botanicum is an Herbal.[4]  The later being a more botanical work would naturally include full illustration of the vines for identification purposes.

What is particularly interesting about these two lists are the inclusion of Vitis Sylvestris Virginiana or the wild vine of Virginia in both lists published in 1629 and 1640 with the inclusion of Vitis Sylvestris trifolia Canadensis or the wild vine of Canada, only in the second list published in 1640.  In other sections of Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris there are references to Canadian plants such as Martagon Canadense Maculatum which was “brought into France from Canada by the French Colonie, and from thence unto us.”  From my post “Vines in great Abundance”: The First Vintages of the Colony of Virginia I detail how the grapes of Virginia were first mentioned in 17th century English publications between 1609 and 1613.  This places John Parkinson’s mention of Virginia grapevines some 20 years and subsequent classification some 31 years after the first 17th century English publication.  Samuel de Champlain saw many grape vines in Canada on what they named the Island of Bacchus in 1605.[5] Samuel Purchas mentioned the “wilde Vines” of “S. Champlain” in his 1614 publication Purchas His Pilgrimage.[6]  This places John Parkinson’s listing of the Canadian grapevine 26 years after the publication of Samuel Purchas.  While these delays include the dissemination of published accounts they would also reflect the delay before an actual botanic specimen or botanic description arrived in England.

Moving back in time, John Bonoeil described three different wild vines of Virginia in 1622.[7]  First there is a vine which climbs to the tops of tree and bears large quantities of small black grapes.  A second vine grows on the ground and bears grapes almost as big as a Damson, is very sweet, and is known as a “Fox-Grape”.  The third vine bears a white grape which are eaten by “birds and beasts.” From “Mr. Coys his Garden. 24 & 25 of March 1616-1617” under the list of Virginian Plants appears Vitis virginiana.[8]  Whether this was cultivated by Coy is unknown but it represents an early botanical name for the Virginian grapevine.   In two 16th century English Herbals, John Gerarde’s Historie of Plants published in 1597, describes the husbanded Vitis Vinifera and the wild Vitis Sylvestris but does not include the vines of Virginia nor Canada. [9].  The only grapevines to appear in a catalog of the plants grown in his gardens are “Vitis viniferae varia. Divers sorts of Vines.”[10]  The second part of William Turner’s A New Herbal published in 1562 mentions the manured Vitis Vinifera and two types of wild Vitis Sylvestris vines.  However, these descriptions appear based on vines he saw in Italy and Germany. [11]

I find other early European references to the vines of Virginia and Canada in Caspar Bauhin’s Pinax Theatri Botanici published in 1623[12].  Caspar Bauhin was a Swiss Botanist.  In the body of the text under Vitis Vinifera he lists the following grapes and vines:

  1. I. Vitis vinifera
  2. II. Uva Passa major, Graecis
  3. III. Uvae passae Indicae gigartis carentes
  4. IV. Uva passe minores, vel Passulae Corinthiace
  5. V. Vitis sylvestris Labrusca
  6. VI. Vitis sylvestris Americana
  7. VII. Vitis sylvestris Virginea
  8. IIX. Vitis sylvest. Indica acinis pruin sylvestris.

Caspar Bauhin lists both Vitis Virginiana and Vitis Canadensis in the appendix because Jean Robin and his nephew Vespasian Robin collected and grew plants from America.  In 1622 they received six plants from America which they grew in their garden and sent at least one vine to Caspar Bauhin.[13]  It was Caspar Bauhin who named the vines Vitis Virginiana and Vitis Canadensis.  The descriptions in the main body of the book are more general with that of Vitis sylvestris Americana as edible grapes from new France and Vitis sylvestris Virginea as two types.  The first thin and sour and the second, large, sweet, and edible.  In the appendix the descriptions are more specific with the Canadian vine  named Vitis Canadensis and described as a bushy vine with trefoil grapes on long stalks from the garden of another.  Vitis Virginiana is descirbed as a broader, rounder, thin, and high-climbing, little vine from the garden of Robini.  Only Vitis Virginiana is listed, without description,  in Wilhelm Lauremberg’s Botanotheca published in 1626.[14] I take this to be the wild vine of Virginia because it is in the same sentence as Vitis Corinthiaca or the currant producing Coranthe vine.  This was published in Rostock, Germany where the 15th century university was founded.  Adriani Spigelii’s 1633  Isagoges in rem herbariam libri duo lists both Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Sylvestris trofil. Americana, presumably the parsley vine of Canada, without description.[15]

John Parkinson provides a description of a single type of grapevine in Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris. This vine grew on the ground and bore few, small grapes which contained little juice and had stones which were bigger than any other grapes. The descriptions provided by John Parkinson in Theatrum Botanicum are even more detailed that those in Caspar Bauhin’s Pinax Theatri Botanici  appendix.  There are three types of wild vines of Virginia which run on the ground and climb up whatever it meets with.  The first type has small, white grapes “with little sappe or juyce in them, and the kernell twice as bigge as others”.  This description matches that in Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris.   The second type “hath bigger blew Grapes, and sowrer in taste”, and the third is the “Foxe Grape” which “is white, smelleth and tasteth unto a Foxe.”  The Canadian vine has red branches, grows where it can, and has leaves half the size of manured vines.  The leaves have three partitions with “each cut in deep” with a “long smooth stalke” of which there are three leaves.  Unfortunately they had “more skinne and kernell then substance of juyce.”

In John Smith’s  A Map of Virginia published in 1612 he describes two types of grapes vines in Virginia.  The hedge grape, from which wine was made, came from vines which grew to the top of trees and bore fruit when they were exposed to sun.  The second type he described as, “neere as great as a Cherry, this they call Messaminnes; they bee fatte, and the juyce thicke”.  Unfortunately this fruit did not make pleasing wine. [16]  Roughly 30 years later John Parkinson describes three different Virginian vines and grapes and one Canadian vine and its grape.  The inclusion of both scientific names and botanic descriptions appear to be the first published in English for these grapevines.

[1] Parkinson, John. Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris. 1629. URL:
[2] Parkinson, John. Theatrum Botanicum. 1640. URL:
[3] Tradescant, John. Musaeum Tradescantium. 1656. URL:
[4] Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair. The Old English Herbals. 1922. URL:
[5]Voyages of Samuel de Champlain 1604-1618. URL:;cc=moa;rgn=main;view=text;idno=AGD5994.0001.001
[6] Purchas, Samuel. Purchas His Pilgrimage. 1614. Page 747. URL:
[7] Bonoeil, John. His Majesties Gracious Letter to the Earle of South-Hampton. 1622. URL:
[8] Gunther, R.T. Early British Botanists and Their Gardens. 1922. URL:
[9] Gerarde, John. The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. 1597. URL:
[10] Jackson, Benjamin Daydon ed. Gerard, John. A Catalogue of Plants Cultivated in the Garden of John Gerard In the Years 1596-1599. 1876. URL:
[11] Turner. William. A New Herball, Volume 2. 1562. URL:
[12] Bauhin, Caspar. Pinax Theatri Botanici. 1623. URL:
[13] Nouvelles archives du Muséum d’histoire naturelle. 1895. URL:
[14] Lauremberg, Wilhelm. Botanotheca. 1626. URL:
[15] Spigelii, Adriani.  Isagoges in rem herbariam libri duo.  1633  URL:
[16] Smith, John. A Map of Virginia. 1612. URL:

Several Wines We Continue to Enjoy

This post features five wines which we have been drinking over the summer.  All of these are good wines, you could randomly pick anyone of these and be satisfied.  The 2012 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins comes across as more structured than the 2011 vintage which I so dearly loved.  I would try it again in the new year.  The 2011 Tami, Nero D’Avola is made by Arianna Occhipiniti and represents an affordable introduction to her wines.  While the 2011 Lafage,  Tessellae is not a block-buster wine for me, it is, nevertheless very good quality at a strong price.  It may be drunk now but I suspect it will be best next year.  The 2012 Herencia Altes, Garnatxa Negra is a juicy, easy to drink wine and it only costs $10.  You should stock up on this for beach trips or backyard parties.  Lastly, the 2009 Bodegas Luna Beberide, Finca La Cuasta, Mencia is a wine which I really liked.  It is young and should be cellared for six to twelve months but there is good character to the flavors.   These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins, Cotes du Rhone – $24
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is mostly Grenache with some Cinsault sourced from the domaine’s youngest vines being 5-30 year old.  The soils are of clay limestone.  The grapes are partially destemmed and both fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for six months in cement tanks. Alcohol 14%.  The light nose was fresh with scented fruit.  The fruit in the mouth follows the nose but with drier flavors and pepper.  The dry structures come out along with firm, black fruit.  There was a fine texture in the finish and a little Pilsner hint in the aftertaste.  Try next year.  *** 2014-2019.


2011 Tami, Nero d’Avola, Sicily – $17
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a light to medium grapey, cranberry.  In the mouth there was a sort of black fruit with delicate and floral Sicilian flavors.  The linear fruit expands until the finish which reaches the back of the mouth.  The wine was weightless in a sense with well-integrated acidity.  ** Now-2015.


2011 Lafage,  Tessellae, Cotes du Roussillon – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon Selections.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was subtle.  In the mouth there were grapey, black flavors which left a powderly ripeness on the lips.  The wine was ripe with a firm and robust quality, good flavor, and a young nature.  There is a lot going on but it has not yet achieved great depth.  It was a good wine, probably not long-lived.  *** 2014-2017.


2012 Herencia Altes, Garnatxa Negra, Terra Alta- $10
Imported by Eric Solomon Selections.  This wine is 100% Garnatxa.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was light with ripe, raspberry aromas.  In the mouth there were ripe and fresh young berries.  The freshness continued with integrated and juicy acidity, leaving flavors which coated the inside of the mouth with pleasing fresh and sweet, ripe tannins.  The acidity was a little noticeable as a little, berry, tooty fruity flavor came out in the finish.  Juicy Grenache.  *** Now-2014.


2009 Bodegas Luna Beberide, Finca La Cuasta, Mencia, Bierzo- $19
Imported by Grapes of Spain.  This wine is 100% Mencia sourced from 60 year old vines.  It was aged for 12 months in French barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was subtle with low-lying aromas of dark red fruit, plummy then fresher.  In the mouth there was red and black fruit with plenty of integrated acidity which touches the tip and sides of the tongue.  The structure is around the fruit with a woodsy note.  **(*) 2014-2019.


Italian Wines With Lou

Lou and I managed to squeeze in an evening tasting and dinner before we both headed off on vacation.  As the sole German wine was past prime we ended up only drinking Italian red wines.  I though the 2000 La Spinetta, La Pin a serious wine but not yet open from its long slumber.   The 2004 Tenuta Grillo, Pecoranera was a bit stinky on the nose and animale in the mouth.  I thought it a young wine but in showing better on the first, rather than the second night, it perhaps needs more bottle time.  Or perhaps this was just an under performing bottle.  The 2005 Poggio Bonelli, Poggiassai was the most forward of the four red wines.  It was not the most complex of wines but it made for a satisfying, affordable Super-Tuscan wine which had benefited from some bottle age.  Lastly, the 2009 Vigneti de Marchi, Proprieta Sperino, Uvaggio was my favorite of the four.  The beautifully floral nose was followed by good fruit making it a wine to drink now and one I recommend you try.


2002 Weingut Merz, Ockenheimer Laberstall, Auslese, Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen –
Past prime.


2000 La Spinetta, La Pin, Monferrato Rosso – $40
A Marc De Grazia selection imported by Michael Skurnik.  This wine is a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera which undergoes malolactic fermentation in oak followed by aging for 16-18 months.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a medium garnet ruby.  The nose was of fresh herbs then with air took on subtle mulled berries.  In the mouth the red and black fruit rode on density.  There was some tooty fruity flavors to the good fruit of the finish.  Over two nights the wine still played it close.  **(*) 2015-2023.


2004 Tenuta Grillo, Pecoranera, Vino Rosso – $28
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is a blend of Dolcetto, Barbera, and Merlot.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The wine was a medium ruby with grapey hints.  The nose was a little stinky at first.  In the mouth there were drier flavors, astringent, a bit of animale, then red fruit followed by black fruit.  The wine had a firm start and maintained astringency.  There were dry tannins in the finish with an earthy note right before a hint of Pilsner in the aftertaste.  Rather young and I think best on the first night.  * Now.


2005 Poggio Bonelli, Poggiassai, Tuscany – $24
Imported by International Cellars LLC. This wine is a blend of mostly Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon which was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 16-18 months in small French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a fruitier, dark nose then some tobacco with hints of maturity.  The nose remained fruit forward.  In the mouth were darker and dry flavors, which were almost tart red. There was some wood box and dried herbs.  The drying tannins stuck to the lips and teeth as a little fresh herbs came out.  This was a solid wine with a little blue fruited freshness.  *** Now-2020.


2009 Vigneti de Marchi, Proprieta Sperino, Uvaggio, Coste della Sesia Rosso – $31
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is a blend of 65% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolina, and 15% Croatina. Alcohol 13%.  The nose was delicate and beautiful with floral aromas, violets, and underlying fruit.  There was a little more acidity on the tongue with good, red fruit and a little dryness.  This was a nice wine for the short-term.  *** Now-2015.


A Visual History of 16th Century Herbal Illustrations of Vitis Vinifera

August 20, 2013 4 comments

Herbals are early books which catalogue and illustrate plants.  They reveal the close link between the development of botany and medicine.   In conducting research on 16th century references to grapevines, I came across illustrations of the common European grapevine Vitis Vinifera.  In this post I feature 11 illustrations from the years 1540 to 1595.  Some of the illustrations have been recycled by a single author such as Leonhard Fuchs whereas others are copied such as with Geoffroy Linocier and Antoine Du Pinet de Noroy.  Several illustrations show the root, vine, leaves, and grapes whereas others are clippings.  There are also woodsy vines, curling tendrils, delicately veined leaves, and beautiful grape clusters.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

De Vite. [1]

Vitis Vinifera. Wijngaerr. [2]

De Arboribus Vitis Vinifera. [3]

Vitis vinifera. [4]

Vitis Vinifera. [5]

Vitis Vigne cultiuee. [6]


Vitis vinifera. [7]

Vitis. The Manured Vine. [8]

Vitis Vinifera. [9]

Vitis Vinifera. [10]


Vitis vinifera. Weinreb. [11]

[1] Egenolphus, Christianus. Botanicon. 1540. URL:
[2] Fuchs, Leonhard. Den nieuwen Herbarins, dat is, d’breck van den cruyden(etc.). 1543. URL:
[3] Lonitzer, Adam. Naturalis historiae opus nouum. 1551. URL:
[4] Dioscorides, Pedanius. De medica materia. 1552. URL:
[5] Mattioli, Pietro Andrea. Medici Senensis Commentarii, in libros sex Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei De medica materia. 1554. URL:
[6] Dodoens, Rembert.  Histoire des Plantes. 1557. URL:
[7] de Noroy, Antoine Du Pinet. Historia Plantarum. 1567. URL:
[8] Dodoens, Rembert. A Nievve Herball, or Historie of Plantes. 1578. URL:
[9] Linocier, Geoffroy. L’Histoire des Plantes. 1584. URL:
[10] Durante, Castore. Herbario Nuouo. 1585. URL:
[11] Fuchs, Leonhart. Plantarum et stirpium icones. 1595. URL:

Unique and Amazing, the 2006 Chateau des Tours, Reservee, Vacqueyras

I am in the middle of my August vacation so I took an unusual Saturday trip to MacArthur Beverages.  I announced to one person that I was relaxed because I was on vacation, he looked at me puzzled, “Dude, its a Saturday.”  Sitting on the the wire racks which hold recently arrived bottles of Rhone wine, were bottles of 2006 Chateau des Tours, Reservee, Vacqueyras.  I had never seen them before.  Though there were no shelf-talkers or signs pointing them out I knew they were special. The font on the label is clearly related to that of Chateau Rayas along with the use of red and black lettering similar to Chateau de Fonsalette.  Then there was the price which exceeds that of any Vacqueyras I could recall.  Phil had planned to open a bottle that very night so I decided to open mine as well.  Chateau des Tours is the estate of Emmanuel Reynaud who took it over from his father.  He became the winemaker at Chateau Rayas and Chateau de Fonsalette in 1997 after the death of his uncle Jacques Reynaud.  The des Tours estate contains 40 acres of vines from which Vacqueyras, Cotes du Rhone, and Vin de Pays are produced.

The light color of the wine was noticeable through the glass bottle even before I pulled the cork and remained distinct in the glass.  A quick sniff revealed a different sort of Vacqueyras which was confirmed in the mouth and throughout the evening.  This is the most beautiful Vacqueyras I have ever drunk.  It is a very approachable wine, that while immediately attractive, responded very well to air.  It continued to expand and slowly develop complexity over the course of the evening.  If you love the Rhone then you must try a bottle.


2006 Chateau des Tours, Reservee, Vacqueyras – $60
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 15%.  The color was a light cranberry red.  The light to medium strength nose was immediately aromatic with delicate ripe and sweet red fruit, strawberry, and subtle tobacco.  In the mouth there were old-school red flavors, candied orange peel with underlying flavors of cedar box and black fruit.  Over the course of the evening the wine easily expanded in flavor.  The finish was a little rugged with minimal tannins and balanced acidity. **** Now-2023.


A Visual History of Wine Gauging Tables

August 16, 2013 1 comment

Wine gauging is the measuring and calculation of the volume of wine inside of a cask. It is an important task which is centuries old and of some complexity.  Various methods of calculating the volume have developed over the years and these are often accompanied by mathematical tables to aid in the calculation.  I will write about these methods in depth at some point in the future but as it is the middle of August vacation I am publishing a visual post to make for light reading.  Perhaps you will be looking at this on the beach! This post features many mathematical tables related to wine-gauging. I find they are suitable for close scrutiny and also from an aesthetic point of view. Many wine cellars and stores are decorated with images of old bottles, labels, and maps. Perhaps some of you will be inspired to include these mathematical tables.

“A Table for the Gauging of Wine which are not full” from Phillippes, Henry. A Mathematical Manuel. 1677.

The Inch Table for a Cask in the Form two Cones abutting on a Common Base. From Lightbody, James. Lux stereometriae. 1701.

A Table of Wine-Measure. Everard, Thomas. Stereometry. 1705.

A Table of the Segments of a Circle, whose Area is Unity. From Ward, John. The Young Mathematician’s Guide. 1724.

A Table for Gauging Wine or Oyl in certain Casks.  From A Complete View of the British Customs. Crouch, Henry. A Complete View of the British Customs, Vol 1. 1725.

A Table for Gauging Wine-Casks, when full. Kelly, Joshua. The modern navigator’s compleat tutor. 1733.

TheTablature for Inching an upright and paralelly-posited Tun, whose Ends are Ellipses. From The theory and practice of gauging, demonstrated in a short and easy method. 1740.

A Table of Regular Polygons. From Better, Charles. The royal gauger. 1750.

TABLE V Divisors which may be put on the radius I 2 of the officer’s instrument for wine polygons and their prisms. From Flower, William. A Key to the Modern Sliding-rule. 1768.

To find the Mean Diameter of a Cask of Any of the Four Varieties having Given the Bung and Head Diameters. From Hutton, Charles. A Treatise on Mensuration. 1788.

Inching Tuns and Coolers. From McGregor, John. A complete treatise on practical mathematics. 1792.

À general Table for Gauging or finding the content of circular headed Casks Part the second. From Kerigan, Thomas. The complete mathematical and general navigation tables. 1828.

Ullage Table for Lying Casks. From McLean, John Osborne. Practical Instructions in Gauging, Racking, Blending, Vatting, Fortifying Etc. 1881.